Cyclamens and Swords Publishing
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Poetry December 2011-2
Poetry December 2011-2
On this page: poems by Ann Elizabeth Carson, Carolyn Howard-Johnson, David Fraser, Carolyn Yates, Aviva Shavit, Gretti Izak, Hazel Haberer, Irene Mitchell, Jessica Goody, John B. Lee, John Daleiden, Iris Dan

The following works are copyright © 2011. All rights reserved. No distribution or reprinting in any form whatsoever without written permission from the authors.

Ann Elizabeth Carson

Ann Elizabeth Carson, published writer, artist, feminist, psychotherapist, one of Toronto’s Milles Femmes (2008) is fascinated by the intersection of word with sound and visual images. Ann writes, paints and sculpts in Toronto and Manitoulin Island, reads and shows at multi-media events and leads workshops in how the arts create a new perspective in how we see ourselves and our world.


There are days
when time has no other side but now,
when was,

not decently retrospective,
fills my mouth, chokes me
with presences that should be memories,
not tastes.

“So long ago” they say.

I wanted him to keep on walking, even
when the ground fell away under him, wanted
him to find another voyage
so he could keep on living, so

there would be something else*

“But living killed him.”
I say
there’s nothing else.

*From Tennessee Williams, Camino Real, “Make voyages, attempt them. There’s nothing else.”

Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Carolyn Howard-Johnson's poetry has been published widely in anthologies and journals. Her chapbook Tracings was published by Finishing Line Press and she coauthors the Celebration Series of chapbooks with Magdalena Ball. She was named Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment by members of the California Legislature.

Looking Forward

A man and woman, together
across the waiting room
healing touch, hand to knee.
His body bowed and bumpy
a snap bean, her frame bent
like her cane, feet slow and flat,
eyes glossy. She limps from him,
drawing her fingers
across his open hand.
He watches until she is gone.
“Why dint they play cards on th’ ark?”
His voice large in the quiet,
magazines, faded and creased,
children’s beads and building blocks.
“Because Noah sat on th’ deck.”
“Would you like t’ hear another?”
“What kind of light did he have on th’ ark?”

The receptionist’s vacant voice answers
politely. A young man nudges
his other, eyes lowered to the slats
of winter sun on the carpet.
“A floodlight.”
No answer.
“How did th’ pioneers pay fer their food?”
I wait. Finally, a curative.
“Tell me,” I say.
“They used winter quarters.”
“What did they think of th’ crickets?”
“They thought they were for th’ birds.”

A white coat moves through the room.
“Mr. Hanson, we can’t help your….”
“Why don’t they have telephones in China?
“They are afraid they’ll wing th’ wrong Wong.”
“Mr. Hanson…
The woman returns, sandpiper legs
step-stepping on sand.
“Give me another riddle, Hon,”
She teeters, reaches out.
“UPS merged with Fed Ex. What did they call it?”
She took a cane from him, his palm over
her hand, veined, palsied.
They laugh.
“Fed-Up?” she says.


I sympathize. The water
cooler. Ungainly. Gasps

for air, bursts bright
as soap bubbles, quick

as magic tricks, urgent gusts.
Secrets. Needs. If only

someone would pause,
to see the beauty there

or at least to listen
to its call for help.

Realizing Expectations on My Own Damn Postpartum Schedule

scrawny, yellow thing you were. I doubted,
saw blue pulsating in the backs of my hands,
asked my gynecologist for post-partum
drugs (strong), my genealogist for news
of similar births. I got no answer from one,
the former only a frenzied need to swab toilets
rather than hold you to my breast, comb
static--electric bright--from your hair.
To find relief from squall and ten-minute
glucose-induced diaper changes, I put you
on auto-swing, installed you in a bouncey
chair to watch the big kids play.

                                                 So slowly
I hardly noticed, your eyes lost nephritic
glaze, you stepped away from the couch, teetering,
you pointed, said hot not mama. One day, months
later, when I had lost hope, you in the backseat
as seen in my rearview mirror
finally made me smile.


The nurse
says agonal. I can't bear
the word, respiration, please.
It's more sigh than agonize.

Only a moment before
agonal, Hazel
reaches for my hand.
How do you feel?
She shrugs.
In pain?
Another shrug.
How was the Popsicle they gave you?
She opens her eyes.
Pure ambrosia.

Our moments—dream catchers—not remotely
related to agonize or agonal, like Hazel's Popsicle,
run in trickles between our fingers,
down our arms to the place where we know
the difference between pale,
orangey-pink mangoes and agonize.

Hazel lived
and died
with mango on her tongue.

David Fraser

David Fraser lives in Nanoose Bay, on Vancouver Island. He is the founder and editor of Ascent Aspirations Magazine, since 1997. His poetry and short fiction have appeared in many journals and anthologies, including Rocksalt, An Anthology of Contemporary BC Poetry. He has published four collections of poetry, Going to the Well, 2004, Running Down the Wind, 2007 and No Way Easy, 2010, Caught in My Throat, 2011, a collection of short fiction, Dark Side of the Billboard, 2006 and On Poetry, a book on poetry and poetics, co-authored with Naomi Beth Wakan.

How to Celebrate Disaster

He eats lettuce from the garden
fridge bare, gas tank empty,
wakes up after ten hours sleep
no coffee left
just a few cigarettes to ration out,
starts to read a book,
gets half way down a page,
and he’s asleep.

Afternoon light shifts
and he’s kicking himself
for all his mistakes,
her leaving,
the unfathomable surprise of it,
his disbelief, his shame,
a marriage failed.

Imagine, lettuce from the garden,
car idle in the driveway,
weeds sprouting up through
the pit run where he changes engine oil,
grass long and webbed by spiders
catching flies.

But one day he crawls out,
finds a summer job,
gets a paycheck
and he’s a boy again
off with other boys
to spend it all
on a beach motel,
booze and a chance
to talk to women, girls,
maybe laugh.

Eight-track gravels out a Joplin song
early morning on the road,
a shot of rye deep in his belly
and a beer between his legs
all four windows down
a what-the-fuck future waiting to be found.

I Must Quit Worrying About Perfection

I touch these things
and he tells me they are already broken,
cracked, atrophied, worn out, torn,
pen that’s out of ink
that sits in a box of pens,
also out of ink,
a chipped cup,
ripped jacket sleeve,
t-shirt with sweaty holes,
shoes with angled heels,
a frayed lace,
wheelbarrow rusted through,
its creased deflated tire,
a duct-taped boot,
socks with one heel hole,
scratched glasses,
hardwood flooring dented
by dropped beef bones by dogs,
wood faded by the traffic
of feet and paws.

I touched these things long ago,
knew they were already broken
but I just didn’t believe
myself or him.

I Need to Come to Terms with Entropy

I need come to terms with clutter
the waiting for it to end.
Nothing is ever tidy
the surface will not stay clean.
It is always a home invasion
the constant accumulation
inside the castle walls
my own detritus
and yet if I stay still
never move anything
out of place
never change the landscape,
it would continue
this slow steady
breaking down
of everything.

Carolyn Yates

Carolyn Yates is the Literature Development Officer for Dumfries and Galloway in South West Scotland. She writes drama, poetry, school textbooks and education materials and has a Postgraduate Certificate in Writing for Performance. She has been a science teacher, researcher, teacher-trainer and school inspector. She set up two training and development companies and has worked in Palestine, Jordan and Pakistan.

In-valid food

I found the freezer unfrozen,
a hoard of melting food I could not keep.
We are to eat fruit fool
and beetroot soup all week.

In that other weather place
are fed soup in a bowl,
not homemade.
Hot soup in a cold bowl,
on a wheeled table
have no strength to pull
and a spoon that spills
from your claw to the floor
and the bell push for the bull-neck nurse
just out of reach.

I eat, red-lipped, stray caraways.

Aviva Shavit

Aviva Shavit made aliyah in 1965 from the US at the age of 18. She has been a kibbutz member for 33 years. Professionally she has been an English teacher for over 40 years. For the past 10 years she has worked as a psychodrama therapist, group facilitator and playback improvisation theatre group leader. Aviva began writing 12 years ago. Most of her poetry is in English, some is in Hebrew and some she translates into the other. She sings and many of her poems have a strong alliteration.

At A Glance
A passing glance would not arrest your eye-
Her face was plain, no cause for further viewing
Her figure small, the norm, nothing more,
Simplicity in wear, her hair cut short.
She had no use for style
Except for occasions or going on vacation.

In passing what you heard would not alert your ear-
Her conversation the daily stuff, the little things of life:
A neighbor’s dog, a lemon pie, aging parents, the weather;
Suddenly caught unawares
A pun, a play on words, you smile
Given deeper meaning to what was until then small talk.

A passing glance would not get your attention-
The aged community golf-cart full of junk, boxes, trash
Or slow moving parents full of aches and pains needing assistance;
No status here, no high paid job-
The garbage woman salvaging what once was new
To beautify the neighborhood,
Sustain, give solace to the slippery slide of old age…

"Tell me about yourself..."

She was no longer at home;
The rooms unfamiliar, the faces obscure.
She no longer knew how to direct her body;
The gestures random, moved on an urge.
She no longer knew who she was;
The memories unraveled, purged.
But deep inside there did reside a spark –
"Tell me about yourself..." she remarked, unhurriedly;
Perchance she could take herself off the shelf
As he revealed himself ...

A Bald Woman at the Wig Maker

Upon marrying, ultra-orthodox women shave their heads for modesty,
Bodily hair sends messages of less conspicuous places;
Buddhist nuns are ceremonially shorn, shedding this world's vanities to
Center on letting go of "baby", "adult", "colored", "graying" and "white";
Fashion setting models flaunt the norm of cascading locks that
Lure men, Delilahs or Repunzels (letting down their hair), locking them into relationships;
The "subhuman" hair of women in the concentration camps filled mattresses,
Stripped, exposed, what mattered feminine-female in the concentrated effort to degrade, negate? ;
Shaven headed "collaborators", ex-girlfriends of conquering armies were paraded
For all to see the shameful shape of "immorality";
Cancer, disrespectful of norms and vanity, brings a sense of modesty to our mortality
The loss of luring locks posing questions as to femininity and appearances;
For me there is always an Auschwitz resonance, the
violence of the malignancy and the treatment, the
inevitable exposure to the naked truths of life…..

Gretti Izak

Gretti Izak was born in Bulgaria. After graduating from London University, she studied History of Art in Italy and in England. She has worked as teacher, painter, head of a multi-language translation program and editor. She has published five books of poetry and a collection of short stories. Gretti Izak lives in Jerusalem.

the battle

as I battle the body
puff and sweat
climbing stairs
run the tread-mill
hoping to lose the fat
around my middle

smear the face
with the latest creams
that promise
the glow of youth
I don’t strive
for a body unravished
by the passage of time

but for an image
of insouciance
where death
is never
as lurking close
my shoulder


Am I to pity my body
with its incursions
into fantasy
like wanting
to dance the tango?

My, my heart,
my disobedient heart,
it leaps in the wrong moments
when it should lie in bed
prim and decent
and not fibrillate
premature contractions
ready to leave the body
to flirt with the angels
in another dimension.

And I am left to wonder
at the wantonness of flesh,
the compass of the heart
and its resonant desire,
wider than the wildest sea
wanting to dance the tango.

Of Flowers

Can you imagine a life –
no, it’s impossible to envision
a life not sitting amidst flowers
to hear them murmur, nodding
their head this way and that way,
rippling with pleasure
when you touch their faces

when they confide secrets
how it feels to live amidst weeds
that encroach on their breathing,
that force them to fling off their beautiful
dresses to put on the dull garb of decay

yes, I understand this
for don’t I share their fate
my body having lost with age
its honeyed seizures of pleasure
to know only the dull garb of aches

the body

four limbs, ten orifices
in a body, cell by cell decaying,
misbehaving, never heeding my voice;

had it i would have lustrous hair,
all my teeth, and no need of medications.
i would dismantle my skeletal remnant

and appendices, and weightless rise above
the earth with that which burns, surfacing
with wings in the light of non-being.

Hazel Haberer

Hazel Haberer is a veteran member of Kibbutz Tzora since 1955 when she made aliyah with her husband Chanan. She was a member of the Habonim Dror Zionist movement in South Africa prior to aliyah. Hazel has 3 children and 9 grandchildren. She has a Bachelor degree in Psychology from Wits. University in South Africa, has written and performed a number of humorous skits in Hebrew and "Ingloo" - a synthesis of English and Hebrew - and a small selection of poems, some published.


Shock, fright
Life and death in the balance
A sorry plight.
Low saturation
Oxygen inhalation
Accepting the new situation
With its limitation.
Born again
Life again, love again
Hope again

Irene Mitchell

Irene Mitchell is the author of two volumes of poetry, A Study of Extremes in Six Suites, forthcoming in 2012 from Cherry Grove Collections, and Sea Wind on the White Pillow (New York: Axes Mundi Press, 2009). She has taught writing in New York City and rural New York State, where she was Poetry Editor of Hudson River Art magazine. Mitchell, who gives regional seminars on how to write better poetry, has published most recently in The CaribbeanWriter, Manifold Magazine of New Poetry (London), Cyclamens and Swords (Music Issue), Assisi: An Online Journal of Literature and Art, and (forthcoming), Spillway.

Litmus Test: The Work-Up

Why so excitable
in the midst of all that grey?

Some havoc in the frame
when red trees ignite
in pulverizing laser-light.

The sheer calamity of obstruction!

Reprieve denied;
the periscope has been activated.
Violet first,
then blue giving way to grey,

then grey to mist,
and mist to ether.

The Adaptive Foe

The foe, they said, is in my head
but I shall seek a third opinion.

The enemy, engrossed and hidden,
any time now
may reach the shore
without even a warning foghorn
against the hapless collision.

Why this crimson vessel is allowed
to operate –
though forces are counterpoised
to handle any spidery intrusion –
is answerable before the outspread lexicon
of labials and plosives
which chatter and converge at the floodgate
till the story’s told.

Till then, I won’t be clipped
at the starboard bow in the shroud of night,
nor will I waver on the other side
like a ficus fig in a corruption of branches.
En garde!

Jessica Goody

Jessica Goody’s work has appeared in the anthologies Timepieces, Seasons of Change, Poetry By Moonlight; The Sun Magazine, and the blogs Getting Along with Grief, Addictive Fiction, Riot Grrl Online, and Poetica Magazine.

Hallucination Upon Awakening

I am eating stars.
The whole world was gray and aqueous
Light wavers along the walls of my ship-cabin,
Unsteady and quaking
With nothing beneath me.

A precipice
The ocean floor
A shipwreck, dust rising.
I am cold and I cannot tighten myself enough
I am not sure whether the emergence
Of these old ghosts,
Is what scares me,
Or the unquestionable fact of their return.

I thought I was in remission,
Head cleared and sea-legs stiffened
To the rolling marble of my mind.
Clinging to the foaming sheets
Once so reliably comforting.

The night owl stifles a yawn.
Yellow eyes unwilling to close,
As stiff and dry as a parched field,
Sickly stubbled yellow-green
Rough and beaten.


If I am a priestess,
I practice my black magic
Only on myself.

The tweezers my athame
My compact
The scrying mirror,
Its watery reflection
A prophecy.

Dusk is a dangerous time.
The hours between midnight and morning
And day to night
The portals open
With the turning of the sun
And the rising of the moon.

Sertraline tablets are my Communion wafers,
The transfigured blood my own.


My scars are silent.
You have to look
Deep to see them.
Perforated psyche
Blood-let for relief.

My scars are iridescent,
Made of the flotsam
and jetsam washed ashore
By mental rages:

A kneecap
streaked with seaweed,
Glittering with golden
grains of sand, mermaid’s dust.

Cut by sea glass, amber tears
of weeping dolphins
asphyxiated with net mesh,
Pathetically suspended.

Glinting like fish scales,
Abalone carved from mussel beds.
Water washes over my scars,
Scouring them smooth.
At night my scars glow sapphire,
Flashing phosphorescence
Like neon signs, their lights
Drifting like cigarette smoke.


I contemplate the blankness
Of my ceiling
In my nest,
My astronaut’s
Space cocoon.

Friendly shadows
There is a sweet serenity,
A calmness,
In being the only one awake.
Quiet coziness of
Cool pillows

John B. Lee

John B. Lee's work has appeared internationally in over 500 publications. He has over 60 prestigious awards to his credit including being the only two-time winner of the People's Poetry Award and winner of the prestigious $10,000 Candian Literary Award for poetry (CBC Radio/Saturday Night Magazine). He has over 40 books in print. A recipient of letters of praise from both Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, he was made Poet Laureate of Brantford in perpetuity in 2005.


I watch him sit
bound to his chair
convicted of living too long
if he walks
he falls
if he falls, he breaks
like branches come down
at the graft
he’s bruised with old fruit
he ripes
till he rots on the floor
like the storm-injured orchards
of autumn, he’s
the snap-wristed man
his face
a port-stain where he’s shaved
gone liverish yellow
with healing
one month with a goose egg
where the mind
used to furrow the field
and so
I watch him
tied to his chrome
lashed to his wheels
as he listens
to trees in the weather
give voice
to the wind
he listens
to rain giving language to glass
what sorrows the sun’s
also grieving the stars
his heart’s in a trap of the moon
gone slow
and the cruel nurse
Kindness says “stay.”

The Shepherd Sleeps

my aged uncle sleeps in a chair after breakfast
I joke in his stale-aired room “Uncle John
— you must only get to one in the counting of sheep
leaping fences these mornings”
and to these words he almost wakes
a weak smile quivers and he says
my name
our name — John —

I bear the burden
of five John Lees
a line of ghosts
misting a meadow
dewing the clover under low cloud
with a river of wet-bellied ewes walking
and fanning out over graze
and then from memory
he gathers up an inner sadness
“I have no sheep”
for he sold the home flock
two score years ago
he lost the last of the lambs
of twenty generations
this bent-back man once was
born strong to the shearing
the late-night lambing but
that eanling’s lost and knocking a dry teat
the hay-spooled manger’s
gone to green dust
and the hunger of shadows
the dark dead weight of emptying
all the grey light
into a vacancy

though I tenderly touch the blue veins
of his cold-backed hand
he does not stir, so
I say farewell
to the full hour
of slow breathing
the dull-heart bailiff
of a grown-lazy death
where the soul wants out
and I am almost ram-angry
at the gods of our dying
what holds the spirit here
isn’t life
what holds the spirit here
doesn’t want us at all

The Spinster’s Friend

“poetry, the spinster’s friend …”
Dylan Thomas

for those who labour at dying
know this, my neighbour lay in bed
doing that slow work
until three days ago
he entered the lonesome knowledge
of a five-dog darkness
and he’d toiled two years at the blue door
losing the hours
as his wife walked him
up the street to the head of the hill
where he sat
watching the silence building
a sand wall in the surf
watching the green wind
and the dust lift and paper scuttle
nursing the tarvia
while, the heart in him ripened
at the knuckle
and he slept
his voice trapped in the weakening
salutation, he mumbled a mouthful
of words like a sick man’s fruit
exhausted by the effort of hello
his head dropped
an over-watered rose
and she wheeled him home
to the long delirium of night

I have an uncle
waiting his turn as well
at the white-feathered sill
he spends his time
drooling at doom
his head become a stone
heaved to the land by frost in spring
he’s lost himself
with only the ordinary pleasure
of soup and porridge
and freezer-burned veal
to pull him along
towards the nudged unraveling
in the effort to learn
what happens next among the meals between napping

what a sad completion
is this
how worse would it be
as it was last night
when I woke
to the animal sound of screaming
knowing what I heard was cat-murder
and the tearing to claws
of a bird

what a red-fowled unangelling
is the true faith of feline

if we wish by whispers
for a better end
to think this is the blind result
of being
what good then is the light
what shows in the shadow
God’s great funeral of stars
or the smaller one-star mystery
of dawn
here I am, Lord
here at the edge of the endless lashings of the lake
lost on this chill shore wondering

I want to know
before my coldest work is done

John Daleiden

John Daleiden is retired after teaching language arts in Iowa public high schools for 43 years. Currently, he is the webmaster and an editor for the on-line e-journal: Sketchbook: A Journal for Eastern and Western Short Forms. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife Debhoranne.

Threading The Warp

In the garden
where my son has retreated
he amuses himself.
There are rugs to weave, books to read—
people come and go…
and hours of tedium.
But most of all there is no rain.
No need for umbrellas,
no need for overshoes.
Naked, his flayed nerves
exposed for all to see,
he plays in the garden.

    Lift the heddle—
    thread the yarn—
    beat the beater—

        He says,
        “Yesterday, I kissed her lips.
        Tomorrow she will kiss mine.”

    Lift the heddle—
    thread the yarn—
    beat the beater—

        “My father doesn’t love me
        and I need his love.”

    Lift the heddle—
    thread the yarn—
    beat the beater—

        “I don’t want to live.
        Life is empty.”

    Lift the heddle—
    thread the yarn—
    beat the beater—

And there are books to read…
word after word…
page after page…

At least in this garden
he can sun himself.
And if he finds tedium
it is here he retreats—
It is his choice to come or go.

As for shelter,
his book is umbrella
enough to keep off any rain,
and the carpet he weaves
is a temporary occupation,
a plain view twill or double weave,
a clear design for all to see,
a scented flower, a healing balm.
No need for overshoes
or sheltering umbrellas
in this kind garden.

Iris Dan

Iris Dan was born in Bukowina, Romania, in a family of Holocaust survivors. She grew up bilingual (German and Romanian), then studied Romance languages at the University of Bucharest, graduating with an M.A. in linguistics. She has been living in Israel since 1980. She is married, has a grown daughter, and works (quite happily) as a translator from and into a number of languages. From her (existential and professional) Babel Tower she sees the Mediterranean. She has written poetry for as long as she can remember, never publishing any, in the last 15 or 20 years, in English only. Recently she has begun to send her poems on their own way and has been published or is forthcoming in the Voices Israel Anthology, Magnapoets, Poetic Portal, Subtletea, and Poetic Diversity.

Building in slum

past shame
all the symptoms
of its systemic diseases:
blistered walls
disemboweled sofas,
spittle-stained pillows
disintegrating plastic
requiring some 500 more years
to disintegrate completely

yet at a window
moist, lush, turgescent
petunias: securely
courageously anchored
in the shining black soil
promising to thrive
forever and ever
in all their fragrance
in all their multicolored
orderly exuberance

the scorching sun
the harsh winds
the poisonous air
their ageing poorly
their being annual plants

promising to hang on


yet sometimes
in cold winter nights
the body glows
in self-sufficient bliss

bear buried deep
under matted hair
summer fat melting
turning into heat
for the cub to be born

bird under its wing
twisted muscles
swollen sinews resting
bent beak straightening
broken claws growing back

finally – best -
oyster shut tight
poised on the waves
sealing ulcers and tears
with layers of mother-of-pearl